A pat on the back, tip of the hat, and a deep bow from the waist is in order for Senator Rand Paul who this week used a seldom used rule in the Senate called filibustering to bring some attention to the issue of whether American citizenship still means protection not only by our government, but from our government.
Rand Paul did something quite rare in Washington -- he brought together principled conservatives and principled liberals to voice concern and alarm over the lack of transparency of U.S. policy of using drones to kill American citizens suspected of terrorism.
Now, it upset those who were protective of the clubby atmosphere of the Senate -- at least as the Senate being an institution. But this was more important than the institution -- this was about following the Constitution that makes it quite clear that being a citizen means that our government has to follow due process in accusing us of crimes. That includes having to formally charge us and tell us what we're accused of; to provide legal counsel to ensure that we're treated in accordance with the law; to assume that we are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of our peers; and ensure that the evidence used against us was obtained lawfully.
Now, if we are found guilty after the tedious and cumbersome process, then we can be punished for our crimes in accordance with the laws for that infraction. The government can't preempt that process and arrive at a conclusion of guilt and carry out a death sentence.
You bet the process is messy and imperfect. And it's sometimes aggravating and slow when it appears that a criminal is being given far more consideration than the victims. But it's also what elevates our country's culture above those whose governments can imprison and even execute people for saying things the government doesn't like, or even for simply believing something the government finds annoying.
I can attest to the impatience and frustration of watching a criminal case wind slowly through the courts because I dealt with it daily as a governor. But the law exists not to coddle criminals and monsters, but to keep the government accountable to the standard of law.
We are a nation of law, not of feelings, not of passions, or thoughts. And I feel very strongly about terrorist actions of people like Major Nidal Hasan, who murdered 14 people at Ft. Hood; or the young radicalized Muslim who murdered Private Long in Little Rock. And though we know by their own statements and dozens of witnesses their guilt, we don't put them in a field tied to a post and then fly a drone overhead and just kill them.
Our passions and feelings would let us do that, but the law will not. It is the objective standard that is designed to force us to deal with crime according to the blind Lady Justice, instead of reacting in our anger and revenge.
And God help us if our own government ever believes that it is not subject to the very laws that restrict it; not forced to follow the strict guidelines of our Constitution.
Because a government that can kill a citizen for what he or she might do is a government that one day will kill a citizen for what he or she is or believes.
All of America should say, thank you Senator Rand Paul.